Grandeur of the Seas Eastern Caribbean Cruise August 1997
I sailed on the Grandeur of the Seas from 8/9 - 8/16 with my 7-year old son Zach and 4-year old daughter Alex. This was my first RCI cruise in five years, the last three being on Celebrity. I'll attempt to be objective wherever possible, but my personal opinions will obviously be included.
We went to Miami the morning before the cruise and stayed at the Biscayne Bay Marriott; I really like the hotel and have stayed there before. The location is great, with balconies (at your request) overlooking the Port of Miami. The cab fare from the airport was about $13.00, and to the pier was $6.00.
Day 1 - Saturday - EmbarkationWe all awoke early to see the Grandeur sitting gracefully at the pier. I was truly impressed by her from a distance, and even more so up close. I don't feel the pictures I have seen do her justice. Although I am very partial to the look of older ships or any Celebrity ship, the Grandeur sparkled and had a presence of her own compared to the Norway and the Carnival ship also in port.
Embarkation was very smooth. We arrived at the pier around 11:30 and were on board by noon. The centrum was beautiful. What a large, open, bright space this was. The marble floor on Deck 4 was great and the steps leading from there to Decks 5 and 6 were really pretty. Unfortunately, none of the fountains were working at embarkation, nor did they work at all throughout the cruise. This area was clearly the place to see and be seen throughout the cruise -- particularly on formal nights.
So, on to our cabin, a Cat K on Deck 7. Though it was my first inside cabin, I thought it was adequate and not at all claustrophobic. Overall, there was enough room for the three of us, but I never cease to be amazed at how small those bathrooms and showers are! The decor was quite nice and bright, and mirrors were everywhere. We quickly dropped our carry-ons and ventured out to the Windjammer for lunch.
The lunch buffet was pretty good. Actually, it eased some of my fears (maybe too soon) about the food to come over the next week. The Windjammer is a beautiful, nautical room. The windows are huge, and afford a wonderful panorama over the bow. But the traffic flow is really poor! The only way out of the Windjammer is to pass the beginning of the buffet lines, which can be difficult. There are several circular areas around which it is very difficult to move when there is more than a few people there, and there is no place to set your tray while you are getting food from the chaffing dishes. That made for an interesting balancing act, especially for the kids! We never tried it for dinner, which was available here every night but the first and last for those who wanted to dine less formally.
The rest of the ship was equally beautiful. The biggest disappointment to me was the Solarium Pool. It was a great retreat from the main pool, and a truly elegant area. Unfortunately, the area was in various states of repair on Sunday and Monday, and the pool was completely closed from Tuesday on. What a shame, because I found the pool to be wonderfully relaxing -- it was like a large spa.
The Great Gatsby dining room was really nice. I had requested a table for three, but when I checked in the Card Room earlier that afternoon with the Maitre' d, I discovered we were assigned to a table for six in a high traffic area on the upper level. The head waiter I spoke with "created" a table for three on the lower level near the windows. He literally drew a table in for us, and it worked out perfectly. He refused a tip from me at the time, too! A word of caution for future passengers: there are two "wings" at the front of the room that look like they could be closed off if need be. They had several tables in there on this sailing that were completely removed from the main activity of the dining room. This could be good or bad, depending on your tastes. If you want to see the parades and other activity, avoid this area if possible. Service started out and continued to be excellent.
This is the night that you are told to get your tender tickets between 10:00 and 11:00 at the Shore Excursion desk. The shady areas go quickly on Labadee and Coco Cay, so it's recommended that you get ashore early. We waited until about 10:15, with my 4 year-old practically passed out on my shoulder to get tender tickets numbered 1. Whew! What a relief to have them in my hand -- EXCEPT, on the two mornings you needed the tickets, they ran "early bird specials". Any one could go when they did that, and it was with the first two tenders. So, the moral of this story is, just be ready when they call and don't worry about your number.
Day 2 - Sunday - At SeaA great day all around. Breakfast in the dining room was typical RCI, but good. The main pool was pretty crazy, but the solarium pool was great. Lunch was, in my opinion, really bad; this was pretty standard all week. The Windjammer was crowded, and as I mentioned earlier, very difficult to maneuver in. The food was not very good. In my opinion, the best thing for lunch each day was a salad or pizza.
Zach and Alex went to the kids club, Club Ocean, for a little while. There is a large ball pit and tunnels and slides in there. There was both free play and organized activities throughout the week. I really liked the counselors and truly trusted them from what I saw. I popped in periodically throughout the week when the kids were there just to see what was going on.
On this Sunday evening, dinner was a formal affair, and we loved it. The food was excellent. Not a complaint here. It was really fun donning our tuxes and fancy dresses and strolling through the Centrum to the dining room. The elegance of the ship really makes formal night a natural. There were photographers set up all over for the usual formal portraits -- my favorite background being the Centrum as opposed to the fake sunsets.
Prior to dinner was the Captain's Cocktail Party. Captain Svensen is by far the most pleasant, entertaining and visible captain I have ever met. You would see him regularly walking around talking to passengers throughout the week. He was even in the Solarium "supervising" the repair work from time to time. His announcements throughout the week were informative and humorous, and he always started the afternoon announcement with "welcome home." I hope to have the privilege of sailing under his command again in the future.
Day 3 - Monday - LabadeeI love this place! Always have, but it's even better than it was. There were quite a few jellyfish in the water, one of which attached itself to my shoulder and left a nice reminder for a day or so. The water was clear, the beaches were beautiful and the breeze was blowing gently. Utopia! Zachary and Alexandra participated in the kids club activities, which were a water balloon toss, sand castle building, and other things. They enjoyed it, and I spent the two hours just exploring the island. Lunch was burgers, dogs, fruits, salads, etc. on the beach. It was clearly the atmosphere, not the food, that was so appetizing. Zach had signed up for a Coke card on board: that's where kids can get all the soda they want all week from the bars for an up-front price of $15 plus tax and 15% gratuity. Unfortunately, they don't work on the private islands. Nor do they have water to drink unless you pay 2.50 plus for bottled water. I wasn't thrilled with that.
The evening was semi-formal, and tonight was the repeater's party. Another entertaining talk from the Captain; he was very willing to answer questions and share opinions on the future of RCI. He is obviously very proud and possessive of his vessel and his "family" each week.
After another good dinner n the Great Gatsby room, we went to the show to see "And the Beat Goes On," performed by the Wave Review singers and dancers. This was probably the most entertaining show I've seen on any cruise put on by the RCI performers. There was also the "dangerous comedy" of Wilde and Haines. I laughed so hard, I hurt. This was a fantastic evening of entertainment. These guys have been on the Tonight Show and I would recommend seeing them if at all possible.
The showroom was another impressive place. The room was gorgeous and the seats are very comfortable. There were a few obstructed views, but very few. A really pretty theater and neat special effects.
Day 4 - Tuesday - San JuanA beautiful morning at sea, and another disappointing lunch. Shortly after arriving in San Juan, the skies opened up and it poured. We attempted to walk to the Crown and Anchor club to make phone calls before shopping. The club is a very nice and welcome service to have. Hot tea and coffee are waiting, and there is a cash bar with snacks available for purchase.
The evening dress was casual; dinner was fair.
By the way, you always knew what day it was simply by looking at the carpeting in the elevators. It was changed daily and had the day of the week written in the center.
Day 5 - Wednesday - St. ThomasToday we tried The Great Gatsby, the Windjammer, and the Solarium before we all managed to find something semi-enjoyable. The dining room was open seating, and a disaster. I found it to be completely disorganized and service to be horrendous. What frightened me a bit was when Zach ordered a medium-rare hamburger in the dining room and the waiter said the head waiter would be over with a waiver for me to sign releasing RCI of any responsibility if he should get sick. Instead, he came over to inform me that the chef refused to prepare it that way even with the waiver, because "he was not comfortable with anything less than well done." What does that say??? Alex ordered a hot dog, which came about 15 minutes later frozen on a warm bun. Yuk! Our regular waiter passed by and took care of us instantly. Another less than stellar noon time meal.
Dinner was casual again, and as good as any. Tonight's entertainment was "Rain" - a tribute to the Beatles. I missed it, but heard they had the place rocking and got a standing ovation. Several passengers said they were so much like the Beatles in every way, it was eerie.
Day 6 - Thursday - At SeaAhhhhh! The relaxing sea. Another gorgeous day full of wild pool games and pool-side entertainment. I chose to go off to the bow on Deck 10 and relax in peace and quiet, while Zach and Alex were at Club Ocean.
Lunch today was very different. For the very first time, RCI presented their Gala Buffet at noon instead of midnight. I think it lost some of the pizzazz, and once again, I was disappointed in the food. The midnight buffet tonight was similar to the others.
Dinner tonight was formal again and excellent! It's amazing how quickly you get spoiled by the service. I had a very hard time choosing an entree, so Jose brought two. As he put it, "Why not? It doesn't cost any more!" How can you argue with logic?!
Day 7 - Friday - Coco CayWell, today was a little dismal, but only because of what tomorrow will bring. Coco Cay was another great spot. The water was great, and you could wade out several hundred feet and only be waist high. The fish were beautiful and swam all around you. No jellyfish that I found (or that found me). The hardest part was getting past the first fifty or so feet: it was extremely rocky and difficult to maneuver for the less agile. Once past that, it was great.
The lunch BBQ was burgers, dogs, ribs, and chicken. This was my favorite lunch so far.
Dinner was casual and depressing, knowing that tomorrow I'd either be cooking, or would have to pay extra for that second entree! The dining room staff entertained us all with another song, and everyone said their farewells.
The show was another good one. The Wave Review performers did "Star Struck." It was good, but their first show was far better. Wilde and Haines did some more of their stuff and I was hurting again when they finished. The grand finale was the cruise staff's "If I Were Not Upon the Sea." The sound was messed up, so if you had never seen it before, you would not have understood it all. Unfortunately, it was not as well-received as usual.
Day 8 - Saturday - DebarkationIt was a relatively simple, efficient process, but awfully painful to go through.
Over all, it was a wonderful cruise on a beautiful ship, and one I'd willingly do again. There are always some less-than-perfect things, but I believe it's all in your attitude. Unfortunately, I frequently ended up near one guy whose attitude was pretty poor. All I heard was how he'd never go on RCI again, and he was going to sue for money back because the Solarium pool was closed for part of the trip and there wasn't enough room in the main pool, etc., etc. Several other people were talking about him too. By the way, on the days the Solarium was open, I never saw more than eight people in that pool at one time; I don't think they caused overcrowding in the other. In general, I found the staff to be less friendly and visible than on other cruises. There was one person at the Purser's desk who continually had to ask others for answers to passengers' questions and clearly did not know the layout of the ship very well. That may just come with experience.
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